Tour De Corse
Although British rallyists, both professional and amateur, have always supported French events, particularly the Alpine Rally, it has always been noticeable that few Frenchmen indeed venture over here for the RAC Rally. Piot has been, when he drove for Renault, and one or two others on odd occasions, but never have the French tackled the RAC Rally in such strong groups as the British make up when they go rallying in France, Spain and Italy.
Presumably it is because of the French love of the fast, tarmac rallying which they tend to have across the channel. Loose roads seem not to appeal to them as much as they do to Scandinavians who have never ventured on British rallies in such numbers as they have since rallying went into the forests.
There is, of course, another reason. Just a week before the RAC Rally there is a short, two-day event which both the French and the Italians regard highly, the Tour of Corsica. So much effort and concentration is put into this two-day rally that it would be difficult to come away at once and plunge straight into the RAC, although the Lancia team seem to manage it.
Another name for the Tour of Corsica is the Rally of 10,000 Curves, a description which is only inappropriate inasmuch as it tends to underestimate. Fast straights are almost completely absent from the 1,088-kilometre route of the Tour de Corse and it resembles in many ways the early, long Madonie circuit in Sicily. Indeed, the Tour de Corse has much in common with the Targa Florio, and one could say that their differences are only administrative.
The Corsican Rally lasts from 6 p.m. on a Saturday night until 1 p.m. on the Sunday. The whole is divided into two parts, each part containing five special stages. Together, these make up about one fifth of the total distance. But that is not to say that four-fifths are non-competitive. The road schedules between the 34 time controls are so demanding that very little opportunity indeed is presented for servicing and all but the most minor problems usually result in penalty.
The importance attached to this event can best be judged from the entries. Although only 71 cars started, there were more strong works and semi-works teams than usually seen. There were three Porsches, two entered by dealers and one by its driver, Larrousse. That one was a factory car loaned to him for the event. In fact, it was the same car with which he won the Tour de France earlier in the year. There were three NSUs, two Alfa Romeos and two Dafs.
Among the Lancia team were two of the “F & M Specials” which appeared in the Targa Florio. These were really Fulvias with the passenger compartments cut off at their waists. Drivers were Munari and Mäkinen, but the latter thought that the skies were far too overcast to venture out in an open car so he had a canopy fitted. Munari ran topless, and his co-driver, Davenport, was obliged to spend much time in bed afterwards in order to recover.
Four other Lancias made up the HF contingent, one being by the Swedes Harry Källström and Gunnar Häggbom. These two have been campaigning the European Drivers’ Championship throughout the year, their only real rival being Gilbert Staepelaere from Ford of Belgium. The decider was the RAC Rally, but just before this was written (before the RAC Rally started) we heard that Staepelaere would probably not start, which would mean that Källström would take the Championship.
The Alpine Renaults were out in strength, determined to win the Championnat Alpes Corse, a championship based only on the results of two events, the Tour de Corse and the Coupe des Alpes. Confusion was caused in the scrutineering area as the Alpine team arrived, for to a man they were dressed as Napoleon. This was to honour Corsica’s bi-centenary, and it so delighted the officials that for some time the whole area was in chaos. In the middle of it all, the cars themselves were pushed into parc ferme and one wondered whether they were inspected first!
The Ford entry was rather unusual inasmuch as they were putting Capris to the test, presumably again trying out various combinations of parts in readiness for next year’s World Cup Rally from London to Mexico. Piot and Todt were driving a 2.6-litre car prepared at Cologne but entered by Ford France. Mikkola and Palm were using a 2.3-litre car prepared at Boreham. The latter pair were together for the first time, presumably on a “getting to know you” exercise since it has been announced that they will be driving together for the whole of next year in the Ford team.
The Boreham car shed it fan belt, and the eleven minutes lost were enough to send it way down in the finishers’ list. Piot got his car into third place—no mean achievement considering the number of powerful (and much lighter) Alpines and Porsches ranged against him.
In the early stages, Andruet, the French driver, went into a commanding lead in his Alpine, but a crash in the second half resulted in retirement. Larrousse then took over the lead and held it to the end. It must indeed be a satisfying achievement to have won both the Tour de France and the Tour de Corse in the same motor car.
Whereas in some parts of the World there is concern about the survival of rallying—unjustified complaints are becoming so numerous that the authorities are beginning to frown—there can be no doubt about its continuance in Corsica. It has the same terrain as Sicily and the people are just as enthusiastic as the Italians. Indeed, it is not at all difficult to imagine the public outcry, even riot, there would be if there were the gentlest hint that the Tour de Corse was in jeopardy.
Källström’s ninth place in Corsica was not quite enough to combine with his Alpine fifth, and Nicolas, the jolly comedian of the Alpine team, managed to beat him in the Championnat Alpes Corse by four points.—G. P.